Sunday, June 5, 2016

My Memory of Mohamed Ali

The big man filled the doorway; he stood there watching as I adjusted his wife’s pillows. Belinda, my patient smiled brilliantly, so I turned to look. There stood Mohamed Ali with the heavy weight title holder’s belt over his shoulder.
One of my first black heroes walked over to give his wife a kiss, while I waited for my eyes to pop back into my head.  The man was huge and all muscle with a presence that overwhelmed. He turned to me and smiled, “Hi, I’m Mohamed Ali; and you are?”
I felt giddy and I have never been a giddy little girl. He tossed the belt on a chair, went to the window, while chatting with his wife. As I did my job, I stole another look at the beautiful he-man, who he held my admiration. He refused the draft; in the sixties that was a big deal. He paid the price with dignity and came out WORLD CHAMPION.
Mohamed Ali charmed everybody who just happened to wander by; part of my job was to protect Mrs. Ali’s privacy by shagging people away, who didn’t hold rank. He held court with everybody before allowing me to do my job. His stories with extreme facial expressions had me laughing until my jaws hurt. This had to be my best work day; I couldn’t wait to tell my husband.
On loan for the day from the Orthopedics, the head nurse told me to return to my floor populated by elderly women with broken hips and young men injured in motorcycle or car accidents.
I said goodbye to Belinda, a lovely woman and asked her husband to come with me to sign casts for the guys stuck in bed.
“Sure, I’ll do it, but I’m not walking; you have to push me in a wheel chair.”
I hesitated; I liked my job and feared the hierarchy, but can say no to Mohamed Ali? Room to room I pushed the big guy, who made everybody smile along the way.

Black guys, white guys, even the old ladies creamed their drawers when he turned his attention their way.  Mrs. Liesendahl, my head nurse did her usual little twitter when she was happy, so I knew she approved.
At the end of our tour he said, “Stop.”
He got out of the wheelchair and said, “Get in.”
Terrified, I said, “No, I’ll get into trouble.”
Uninjured staff members do not belong in wheelchairs; no way, no how was I going to jeopardize my job.
“You’re not going to get into trouble; get in.” He looked at the seat and smiled; I hesitated, but could see he wasn’t giving on this.
The Mohamed Ali pushed me to the elevator, where we chatted about some of the guys he’d met, as we waited. The door opened, out stepped the director of nursing, my big boss. I felt my eyes bulge and my mouth drop; terror set in immediately.
This woman conjured the most angry, disgusted expression she could muster, her eyes glued to me. I just knew if I did that I was going to loose my job. I could see our extra cash and my independence flying out the door. My boss had the wrath of God written on her face. I jumped out of the chair, turned to the man, who had made me feel like a friend, and said, “I told you I’d get into trouble.
The director of nurse had this I’m going to kick your ass look, until her eyes focused on the man pushing her staff member.
He touched my shoulder, “Calm down.”
This is Mohamed Ali; the realization came to the woman in the starched white uniform and cap. And then, he turned on the charm, telling her how dedicated I was to the hospital to take him to visit the guys in Ortho; she really should check moral on 4 Main.
“She is one of my better girls,” the tight assed nurse gushed.
Who could say no to Mohamed Ali?


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Memory in the Moss

Way back in the 1950’s, when Morgus the Magnificent entertained young and old, an eight year old white girl lived on Grand Route St. John in New Orleans.  Some days her next door neighbor and best friend couldn’t come out to play with her. She wandered down the block in search of something to do.
Two boys about her age tossed a ball; before long the little girl tossed the ball with them. They played tag, and then hide-n-seek. The threesome met regularly after that, playing hard, climbing trees, fighting vampires or the civil war. With an accent from Chicago, she invariably represented the North. Two boys against one younger girl wasn’t much of a fight, so the black boy fought on North with her. The little white boy always got to be the Confederate General.
The Confederate General could beat the other boy or the little girl, but the two together creamed the general’s behind, who was then called in to cleanup. The other two played catch before sitting on his grandma’s porch to cool off.
A couple of his aunties and some cousins surrounded this tiny, tiny lady whose ebony skin looked like worn out shoe leather. Who was the tiny old lady they seemed so fascinated with, the little girl wondered.
“Girl, your folks know where y’at?” The old woman looked directly into the girl’s eyes.
“Yes, Maam!”  The girl looked down at the ground. Her mother knew she was on the block; that was good enough.
The withered woman with the softest voice asked questions, teased and joked with the other women on the porch, while one of the aunts painted her miniature French poodle’s toenails bright red. Soon the little girl was dipping the brush into the paint.

“Who is that old lady,” the girl asked her newest friend, the young woman with the dog.
“That’s my great-great grandma,” she said in between puffing air on her black poodle’s crimson toenails. She stuck a paw in the girl’s face. “Blow!” She laughed, and then placed her index finger to her lips, “Ssshh, listen to mah-mau.”
“The mastuh give this house to mah granddaddy; I remember the mastuh from when I was a little girl. Granddaddy say he a good man. He give him this here house and always treat him fair.
Others say time not much more different from when we was slaves.”
The frail woman, who seemed small to an eight year old, raised her wrists, showing hands with knuckles so huge it looked like they hurt.  She shrugged and motioned towards the little white girl.
“I picking cotton before I hur age. This mah house.” Her head nodding as she turned to take in her house.
The eight year old white girl excused herself, telling the elderly lady,”It was nice to meet you; thank you, Maam.”

She skipped home, thinking this lady she just met was someone very special. All through dinner she tingled with excitement; after doing dishes and taking a bath, she could lay on the floor in the dark with her little brother listening to Morgus, the Magnificent on the transistor radio.